As promised here’s a bit more information about our transition to web-based MAP testing. For years, I have been frustrated with several of the shortcomings of the current MAP program, Test Taker. We’ve had issues with database corruption, client performance, and the general setup is really cumbersome. There’s also only two types of devices that are supported – Apple or Windows computers. It’s also pretty clear that NWEA is deprecating the current client/server system in favor of the web-based product. Most of their support is geared now to the web-based system and well over half of all their customer base is now using the web-based system. It was clearly time to update.
NWEA has been using a web-based system for MAP test for almost two years now. It was rolled out nationally in the fall of 2013. Several local schools jumped on board for this initial roll out: Linn-Mar and Mt. Vernon being two. There’s really no other way to describe the 2013 fall testing with this new web-based product other than unmitigated disaster. NWEA has really significant performance issues with their server capacity. Many days testing simply could not happen and other days things started off fine, but the testing website became unusably slow before noon. The problems were so significant that at the end of the year NWEA credited Linn-Mar a very significant amount of money.
However, things got better in the spring – much better. Last May, I took a team over to Linn-Mar to do a visit about their experiences to date with web-based MAP and to see if using it was something we should consider. The long and short of the meeting was that all of the benefits of web-based MAP outweighed the terrible fall testing experience. The Linn-Mar team would do it again. Given this information along with the other benefits of web-based MAP (more on these later), I recommended to the Curriculum and Instruction team last June that we make this change. The team evaluated the evidence and endorsed this recommendation. However, the soonest NWEA could convert us over to the new system is the winter of 2015. So, we set a plan in motion to do that.
We started the conversion process in August and we will be finishing it up in the next couple of weeks. I am still learning this new system, too. But, here are a few of the key benefits of going to the web-based system.
Simplified Data Management — Student data management is much simpler and faster. Before we had to submit student data to NWEA for processing 10 working days in advance of the testing window. This meant that any kids that came to us between the time we sent them the fine and the time it took to get the information processed and download (often it was 10 working days), would need to manually added to the system and would not show on teacher reports correctly. With this new system, we can load the class roster file ourselves. It just takes a few minutes. Also, we can now remove test events ourselves no more Data Repair Request forms.
Greater Testing Options — In the old, client/server version we could only load Test Taker on a computer running Windows or a Mac. With the web-based system we can now test kids on Chromebooks or basically anything with a web-browser.
Greater Data Protection – In the client/server version the test event got saved to a database on one of our servers here. We then had to upload these results each night to NWEA. With the web-based system, everything is saved to the NWEA servers in real time. So, there’s a lot less chance of having data loss or corruption. There’s also no more nightly uploads. – No more “we need everyone out of Test Taker” announcements at the end of the day.
Better Proctoring – I’m not going to go into all the details here, because we’ll be training proctors later. But, there are some nice differences. The one that stands out to me is that a proctor can see on a web page all of the kids progress on tests (including test question number the student is working on). It’s also very easy to find which students have not yet tested and which students have test that need to be completed.
Updated Reporting – NWEA has overhauled the reporting site. You can still use the old one. But, the new one has all of the resources in portal. Below is a brief (6 minutes) video by NWEA on the changes you’ll see. I would strongly encourage all teachers to view this clip.
While there are a lot of great changes here, I’m recommending that we follow the same testing procedures this spring in terms of logistics – where and when students test. I think there will be enough newness at that time. We can talk about redesigning some of these logistics after we get through the first testing experience on this new product.
In terms of next steps, I will be sharing a more detailed overview with the building secretaries next week. The test proctors will be trained in December. Tutorials for using the new reporting site will be shared with staff in December also. The goal is to be ready to test when the winter MAP window opens in January. As always, let me know if you have questions in the meantime.